Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What I’ve Been Up To. . .

. . . besides writing, writing, writing (and actually—no kidding—getting a lot written that doesn’t completely stink):

Yesterday I did a school visit at Jeff West (Jefferson County West Unified School District, for those of you who don’t live in northeast Kansas :-) ), and I had a great time. I talked to the 4th and 5th graders at the Intermediate School in Ozawkie and the 6th and 7th graders at the Middle School in Meriden, and they were all just terrific. Their teachers and librarians prepared them well, reading Airball out loud in class, talking up the visit, making Airball bulletin boards, and all those wonderful things teachers and librarians do every day that get taken for granted.

I’ve actually done several school visits lately. Last month I was in Linwood, talking to the 7th and 8th grades at Basehor-Linwood Middle School. Before Christmas I talked to kids in Overbrook and Stanton. And I always have a great time.

Which, knowing my personality the way I do and for as many years as I have, surprises me. People laugh when I tell them this, but I’m a very shy person. And the first few times I did school visits, I was so panic-stricken (I agreed to do WHAT? In front of HOW MANY KIDS? Did I have a head injury? What was I THINKING?) before the visits that I honestly and truly thought I would pass out in the car on the way. And then I sort of hoped I would because running my car into the ditch seemed infinitely preferable to speaking to an auditorium full of middle graders.

But, to my surprise, I find that I enjoy speaking to auditoriums (auditoria?) full of middle graders. And, even more surprising, they seem to enjoy it, too.

I’m still a shy person. But I find that as a writer, I need to have two personalities: Lisa the Hermit and Lisa Who is Allowed Out in Public. It’s sometimes hard to shift between the two. The Hermit likes being hunkered down at the computer with fictional characters, not having to fix her hair or talk to anyone real. But once I let my Public personality out, she ends up on such an adrenaline high after school visits that she really hates to be put back into the cave.

Other stuff my Public personality has been doing includes a really fun day before Christmas, when I spent the morning at the Barnes and Noble in Topeka at the Auburn-Washburn Book Fair talking to kids and teachers and parents, listening to the elementary school early morning choirs, and signing books with Beverley Olson Buller, author of From Emporia: The Story of William Allen White, a terrific biography that includes incredible photos, many from the morgue of the Kansas City Star and not widely published before now.

I wished I could have stayed there all day, but I left just after noon to motor over to The Book Barn (which, as I’ve said before, is a wonderful, wonderful independent bookstore in historic downtown Leavenworth). Owners Bob and Barb Spear were hosting their annual holiday open house, and they invited me to be their guest, along with Ally Carter, author of the wildly popular Gallagher Girls books, a YA series about a spy boarding school for girls. I had a great time there, too, talking to readers, answering questions, signing books.

I’m very lucky my Public personality gets invited to so many events. And I’m lucky that the Hermit allows her to go.

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